Saturday, 30 October 2010

New Chickens!

 Well I finally managed to get round to collecting some new girls. I really wanted some pure breeds, but there are very few suppliers near me, and even fewer with POL hens at this time of year! I spotted a newish supplier of hybrids and went to have a look, and hopefully to buy 3 new girls.

 No your eyes do not deceive you - there really are 4 in there! A ranger - Marigold, on the left, 2 columbines (blue egg layers), Daisy and Daffodil and underneath them all is Lily, a whitestar and white egg layer. The columbines were so pretty and came in such a variety of colours, I couldn't choose just one!
 The old girls glaring at the new girls in the run!
 I have a tried and tested method of introducing new hens. It only works because they have space and height in the run. I start by putting the new hens into the cube and shutting them in for a few minutes.
 Then I let the old girls out of the run to free range, and I shut them out. The new girls are then allowed out of the cube and into the run. They get a few hours peace to find the food and water and settle in. 
 I then allow one or two of the older girls back into the run, with the newbies. There is often a bit of chasing, but the new girls soon find the high perches and once up there the old girls leave them alone. I leave it as late as possible before allowing the old girls back in to roost - they then have very little time to harrass the newbies before going to bed. They are let out to freerange again first thing next morning.
 For 5 days I make sure that the old girls get shut out of the run to freerange for several hours a day. This gives the newbies chance to fly down for food and water. I also scatter lots of treats in the run during this time. The new girls will often fly down to investigate whilst the oldies are distracted.
 After 5 days they are all let out to freerange together.
 This time I was introducing 4 to 7, so safety in numbers. But I've used the same method to introduce 2 or 3 to 10 and it still works.
 Marigold and Lily were first out.
 Daisy and Daffodil were a little more wary.
 But the lure of green grass soon took hold.
 They are so funny compared to the old girls. The oldies just pootle around the garden. These girls jump and skip and flap and get quite giddy with the newness of it all. They are so funny to watch.
 This picture was taken when they had been with me for 7 days. They are all out freeranging together. No hassle at all from the old girls. So I am now back up to 11 hens. And not one solitary egg for 2 weeks! I am just praying that at least one of my new girls starts laying before christmas. We had to BUY eggs this week :0(

Saturday, 23 October 2010

Short break ... Part 2

Yay, I made it back again! Be honest, you didn't think I would did you? :0)

Anyway, here is part 2 of our little jaunt!
The food at Biggin is delicious - there is only a limited menu, but it is all beautifully cooked, tasty and plentiful. Braised Lamb was on the menu, followed by dessert, cheese and biscuits and coffee served in the lounge in front of a roaring fire. We were exhausted and stuffed so an early night was called for! Even the dogs slept well!

Next morning dawned very bright and clear - a total contrast to the day before! So after a huge breakfast we checked out and headed for Dovedale. The frost was still on the grass and the day was sparkling.
 We decided a short walk was in order, so that we would have time to do a bit of touristy (childfree) shopping before heading home.
 Just a shame that the sun was so low still that the valley was still in shade, and perishingly cold!
 A short half hour walk brought us to the famous Dovedale stepping stones. Now bear in mind that the dogs have already been in and out of the river, crossed it and back again several times before this point. Ruby follows us nicely across the stepping stones.
 And back again.
 But not Candy. Those stepping stones might eat her. And she cannot wade across, because we didn't.
 So A does the manly thing ...
 ... and carries her across, much to the amusement of other walkers! Daft dog!
 Then we hit the sunshine.
 I never tire of these autumnal colours.
 Typical Derbyshire, with those outcrops of white limestone. As soon as I see white stone walls, it takes me back to my childhood - they are such a familiar sight around these parts, and I grew up just north of here.
 We didn't go far. Just far enough to appreciate the beauty of this spot. Then it was time to head for home.

 We walked back down the 'rough' side of the river.

 This would be a lovely place to bring the children in summer, for a picnic and a paddle. But as A pointed out, it would probably be heaving then!

Following a quick browse around Bakewell and the obligatory purchase of genuine Bakewell tart (still too much icing and pastry and not enough almond sponge) and gifts for the boys, we set off home. Back to reality. And already planning next years visit - it seems such a long time away! xx

Friday, 22 October 2010

A Short Break ... Part 1

Oh dear, I've just seen the date of my last post! I really must try to do this more regularly LOL

Anyway, the tents are now packed away for the winter. But we had one last break to look forward to. A celebrated a rather important birthday this year and our lovely stepdaughter booked him a surprise break to our favourite hotel in Derbyshire. So the children were duly packed off to the Grandparents for 4 days and we enjoyed some grown up time together. We enjoy walking so decided to take the dogs with us - a walk just isn't the same without the hounds for company!
We had a lovely room - and the hotel geese like to sit on the lawn outside our window. Which kept the dogs entertained!

We only had one full day to do a really good walk - no need to worry about whether the children would cope with it, so I planned a route about 7 miles/3 hours walking. From the hotel door a round route taking in the village of Hartington and then following the River Dove before heading back up Biggin Dale and home. After several lovely sunny days I was really looking forward to it. But the weather had other ideas.

 It started raining as we left the hotel, and continued unabated. So bear with me as I show you lots of dripping foliage and grey skies. I didn't even attempt to get the camera out until we had passed through Hartington and were heading down to Beresford Dale.

It was slightly better under the trees!

We started off wet, and got wetter, and wetter. A commented that we must be crazy to be doing this for fun! But it was fun, really!

 Despite the awful weather, it was quiet and peaceful. And around every corner the scenary changed revealing new delights. I loved this little bridge! It was very narrow and Candy was very wary of it! She could have paddled across the river here as it widens and is shallow as it is also a ford, but no, she had to cross the bridge with us.
 Ruby demonstrates the depth of water.
So does Candy. Paddling across would be easy.

 But Ruby thinks the narrow bridge is more fun!
 Candy doesn't think so, but we walked across it, so that must be the way! Eventually she plucks up the courage to follow us across. Just look at that hang dog expression on her face!
 I love the glimpse of history - at some point in the past, the stepping stones were the main crossing point for foot travellers. Horses and carts would have used the ford.
 The bridge marks the end of Beresford Dale and the start of Wolfscote Dale - a very picturesque part of the route.

 Limestone cliffs with caves. We didn't venture up to them though - we were so wet, it was easier to just keep plodding along!
 Despite the rain, this was a very pretty walk. And lots of easy walking pathways.

 Despite waterproof trousers, gaiters, coats and very good boots, the rain got through. Even the rucksack got wet inside. I picked the wrong one for the walk and should have taken the time to get one of our proper rucksacks out of the loft.
 At least we still had reasonably good visibility. It would have been very frustrating to climb a hill only to find the view obscured by low cloud.
 I have decided Derbyshire stiles are designed for very slim people only. Even the dogs struggled to squeeze through them!

Eventually we left Wolfscote dale and turned up Biggindale. We left the river behind us. Luckily it was a very gradual ascent - by this time we had been walking for over 2 and a half hours without a break and the old legs were beginning to feel it!

 A realised that he could get phone coverage (there was none in the hotel!) and decided to do his daily phonecalls (Mother, teenage son left at home to chicken sit)

 There was a lull in the rain - and suddenly a patch of blue sky appeared. What a welcome sight!
 Another cave. I contemplated exploring, but it would have meant climbing a wooden stile and when I tried climbing, the water started running down inside my jeans. I decided it wasn't worth it!

 A bit farther on and the sun finally shone on us. Time to take a short break and eat something!
 The hawthorns were glowing with berries. Autumn is a wonderful time for seeing the countryside at it's most beautiful.
 The final walk up Biggindale was lovely, warm and sunny. Our clothes began to steam!

 When we got back to the road this had appeared - it wasn't there when we set off! No wonder we got wet.
 The welcoming party - the geese outside our room window.
The walk took us 4 hours in total, not bad considering it is many years since we walked that distance! We hobbled into our room and the first thing I did was run a hot bath and have a soak. Ahh that was bliss! I will finish off in another post - better go and feed my children now! xx